The former President of India, Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (A P J) Abdul Kalam died of a massive cardiac arrest on the evening of July 27, 2015. He collapsed while delivering a lecture on ‘Livable Planet’ at Indian Institute of Management, Shillong at around 6.30 p.m. and was rushed to the hospital in a critical condition where he was pronounced dead.
The 11th President of India (from 2002 to 2007) was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. He studied physics and aerospace engineering and began his career in 1960 as a scientist in the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
In 1969, he joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where he was the project director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the satellite, ‘Rohini’, in July 1980.
Dr. Kalam, during 1970-1990, made a successful effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launching Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects. He also played a major part in developing many missiles including ‘Agni’, an intermediate range ballistic missile and ‘Prithvi’, the tactical surface-to-surface missile. Thus, he was known as the Missile Man of India. He also played a pivotal role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998.
In the year 1998, Dr. Kalam along with cardiologist Soma Raju developed a low cost coronary stent, named the “Kalam-Raju Stent”. Again in 2012, they designed a rugged tablet computer for health care in rural areas, called “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.
As Chairman of Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), he led the country with the help of 500 experts to arrive at Technology Vision 2020 for transforming India into a developed nation. Dr. Kalam was responsible for evolving policies, strategies and missions for many development applications and piloted India Millennium Mission 2020. On October 04, 2000, Dr. Kalam, launched Mission REACH (Relevance and Excellence in Achieving new heights in educational institutions) aiming to develop human resources of international standards by imparting high quality education in chosen areas of high relevance to industry and society.
He always used to encourage young innovators to develop new technologies to remove poverty from the nation. He said:
“Excellence is not by accident. It is a process, where an individual or organization or nation continuously strives to better oneself”
Further, an annual national competition, IGNITE is conducted by National Innovation Foundation (NIF)-India inviting students to send their original creative technological ideas and innovations. The results of the winners are announced on October 15, the birthday of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and the awards were also distributed by him.
Dr. Kalam was elected as the President of India in 2002 and returned to his civilian life after serving a term of five years.
He received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna (India’s highest civilian honor), Von Braun Award, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan etc. He has also received honorary doctorates from 30 universities.